Negri hockey team sneak into final

KUANTAN: Negri Sembilan scored a golden goal in the 74th minute to edge Kelantan 1-0 in the MHF-Milo-NSC Under-16 semi-finals yesterday. 

Negri prevented an all-east coast final, setting up a meeting with Terengganu to decide the inaugural title at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium today. 

In fact, it could have been an all-west coast final but for a misfiring Penang side who muffed no less than five sitters before losing 1-2 to Terengganu. 

The Negri-Kelantan match was an even encounter and remained scoreless after regulation time. But four minutes into extra time, Negri survived a penalty corner by Kelantan and, in a quick breakaway, S. Vimalan scored the winning goal. 

Negri coach Roslan Mohamed said that this was the first time in his 10 years as a state coach that a Negri team had made it into the the final of an age-group meet.  

“Our tactic was simple – to run at them and get the ball into the D for a shot. They had five defenders at all times and this made it difficult. But we finally came good in extra time. I feel proud of the players and we will go all out in the final tomorrow,” he said. 

In the earlier match, Terengganu had been expected to overrun Penang but found themselves backpedalling a lot in the game. 

Both teams started nervously and the game threatened to get scrappy. But Penang had better control with their individual play and went on the attack early, gaining two penalty corners in the first 10 minutes of play. 

But they wasted the chances with poor execution of their moves.  

In the 12th minute, Penang had a golden chance to take the lead but with only the goalkeeper to beat, Penang skipper Izwan Firdaus shot wide. 

Penang were made to pay when Terengganu took the lead in the 26th minute. 

Their midfielder Yuan Abdul Walid took a quick free hit near Penang's 25 yard line. Three Penang players failed to clear it and a lurking Mohamed Najib Ibrahim had plenty of time to put the ball past goalkeeper Mohamed Faizal Zalani. 

Penang had three more penalty corners but it was only in the 47th minute that they managed to equalise with Asrul Azrin converting a penalty corner move. 

Then came the tale of missed chances again with Azreen Rizal, Asrul, Izwan and Mohamed Firduas Alkap all guilty for Penang. 

Penang's hopes crumbled in the 55th minute when Najib's hit from top D was deflected into goal by Shahrin Mohamed. 

Penang coach Bob Rajendran said the better team did not win yesterday. 

“Many said we were the underdogs and we wanted to prove them wrong. Despite all those chances, we failed to score. 

“The boys played well but these things happens and we have to accept it,” he said. 

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